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[§ 60. The Son of God, archetypal Beauty.] My heart’s voice is to Thee, my Lord and eternal King, Christ Jesus. The work of Thy hand dares to address Thee with loving boldness, for it yearns after Thy beauty and longs to hear Thy voice. O Thou, my heart’s desired One, how long must I bear Thy absence; how long must I sigh after Thee, and my eyes drop tears? O Lord, all love, all loveable, where dwellest Thou? Where is the place of Thy rest, where Thou reposest all joyful among Thy favourite ones, and satisfiest them with the revelations of Thy glory? How happy, how bright, how holy, how ardently to be longed for, is that place of perennial joys! My eye has never reached far enough, nor my heart soared high enough, to know the multitude of the sweetnesses which Thou hast stored up in it for Thy children. And yet I am supported by their fragrance, though I am far away from them. The breath of Thy 164sweetness comes to me from afar; a sweetness which to me exceeds the odour of balsam, and the breath of frankincense and myrrh, and every kind of sweetest smell. It awakes chaste longings in my heart; and delightful, yet scarce tolerable are its flames. For ‘what have I in heaven?’ (Ps. lxxiii. 25.) What is my treasure in that celestial shrine? What is my heritage in the land of the living? Is it not Christ, my Lord, my sole salvation, my total good, my fulness of joy? And how, O Lord, shall I restrain my heart from loving Thee? If I love not Thee, what shall I love? If I transfer my love from Thee, where shall I bestow it worthily? O longed-for Lord, where shall my longings find a rest outside of Thee? If my love stir its wing away from Thee, outside of Thee, it will be soiled; and my longings will be all in vain if they glance aside from Thee. For art not Thou loveable and desirable above all things that can be desired or loved? Whatever worth and beauty all creation has, it has from Thee; and what marvel, since Thou alone excellest all things? Thou hast clothed the sun among the stars with an excellent brightness, and brighter than the sun art Thou. Nay, what is the sun, or what is all created light, in comparison of Thee, but darkness? 165Thou hast peopled the sky with stars, the empyrean with angels, the air with birds, the waters with fish, the earth with herbs, and plants with flowers. But there is no beauty nor no grace in all of them in comparison of Thee, O Fountain of universal beauty, Lord Jesus. Thou hast stored honey with its sweetness, and sweeter than honey art Thou. Thou hast infused its pleasantness into oil, and pleasanter than oil art Thou. Thou hast shed their odours into all fragrant gums, and sweet and pleasant above all rare spices is Thy fragrance. Thou hast set gold among minerals in rare preeminence for worth and beauty; yet what is all of it compared to my priceless Lord, and His fathom less glory, that the angels long to gaze into? Every precious stone and desirable to look upon is the work of Thy hands,—sardius, topaz, jasper, chrysolite, onyx, beryl, amethyst, sapphire, carbuncle, emerald; and yet what are all of them but toys compared with Thee, all-loveable and all-beauteous King? And Thine own handiwork are those precious and immortal jewels with which Thou, O wise Master-builder, didst in the beginning of the ages beautifully embellish the superethereal palace to the praise and glory of the Father.166
[61. The nine Choirs of Angels.] Through Thee, for the fulfilling of the behests of the eternal Father, thousands of thousands glide in swift flight twixt heaven and earth, like industrious bees that flit to and fro between their hive and the flowers; a busy throng, innocent and stainless, neither laggard nor disobedient. Through Thee a hundred times ten thousand stand ministrant in the sanctuary of the temple of highest heaven, staring on the Face of Majesty with a clear unflinching gaze, and sounding forth their harmonious ceaseless hymn to the glory of the triune undivided Godhead.
Through Thee the Seraphim burn, the Cherubim shine, the Thrones give judgment.
Thou, O Lord, art a fire that burns and consumes not; and, from their immediate nearness to the fires of Thy Godhead, all the sacred choir of the Seraphim are wrapt in coruscating flame, and pour abroad the overflowing of their blissful ardours on the other armies of Thy battling hosts; and of these we in our turn have tasted of the fulness.
Thou, our God, art very Light; and the hills catch Thy glory and shed it on Thy people, when Thou dost largely shower forth Thy hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge on the eyes of the 167Cherubim, who fix their nearer gaze on Thee. And from them are lighted in their turn the elect subordinated lamps of Thy marvellous tabernacle, which inextinguishably shine before Thy Face, O Lord.
Thou, King of kings, great awful Judge of judges, dost sit above the lofty Thrones, for they have no higher height than Thine above them, Thrones all life and bliss and uniform profoundest calm; through Thee scanning the ways of truth, and in Thy truth giving forth just judgments.
O Lord, our Lord, the holy sublime Dominions worship Thee, expatiating freely in the mysteries of the Godhead, and, enthroned among the princes of Thy palace, sustain, with no loftiness of haughty pride, the primacy of an exalted rule.
O Lord, my God, through Thee the stately choir of Principalities reign as mighty noble chiefs over the army of the skies in the princedom of a sweet preëminence, unenvying and unenvied in their excellency, and fulfil the mysteries of the Divine will as they read the secret purpose of Thy Heart.
O Lord of the Powers, Thine is their might, as they plunge their flaming brand into the necks of the princes of hell; and fear Thee only, lest these 168should be able according to their will to do mischief for our hurt.
Thine, O virtue of the Father, are all the blessed wonder-working Virtues, whose ministry makes all the whole universe wonder and adore Thee, and, struck dumb awhile at Thy marvellous works, cry out and say, ‘Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done, in heaven, in earth, in the sea, and in all the deeps’ (Ps. cxxxv. 6).
Thine, O sweet Jesus, are the magnificent Archangels, in whom the benignity of Thy great condescension chiefly works; for, glorious satraps of Thy palace, Thou disdainest not to dispatch them down to this poor world to support and help our lowliness, creatures of clay that we are, and close allied to dust and ashes. Through them, by Thy command, the chiefest interests of our salvation are administered, and the profoundest secrets of Thy supreme purpose are conveyed to us by them; by them come sicknesses and health to the generations of mankind; by them the kingdoms and the empires of the world subsist. And, chief amongst them do we own Thy Michael, the stalwart standard-bearer and the citizen of heaven, who stands in advance of the army of the living God, and brandishing his champion’s blade thunders 169with terrible voice against the marshalled hosts of the enemy. ‘Who is like God?’
And the blessed Angels, so loveable in their innocence, are they not the choice work of Thy Fingers, O Wisdom of God? For on the day of their creation Thou didst deck them with an in corruptible vestiture for the work of Thy holy service. These are the living stars of the higher heaven, the lilies of the inner paradise, the rose-trees planted by the silent-flowing waters of Siloe, with their roots immovably fixed in Thee. O River of peace, O Breath of the garden of de lights, O only Wisdom ranging round about the circling bourne of heaven; by Thee they shine, and burn, and glow in perfect wisdom, in virginal chastity, and in the ardours of a deathless love. Blooming in endless youth, they find in our weakness the sphere of their faithful service; for they lead us by the hand like tender guides, and direct our steps as we travel through this darksome world, and ward off the assaults of the enemy, and whisper to us the secrets of Thy will, and brace up our failing hearts to good, and carry up the incense of our prayers to the altar of gold, and always supplicate the Face of our merciful Father for us.
Thus, merciful Father, Thou hast indeed some 170care for us, though for a season we are far away from home. And if the tenth drachma which once slipped from Thy bosom and has now been recovered by Thy toils and sorrows have any worth, it is all Thy gift, good Jesus. If there be aught of sweetest sound in this tenth chord strung of yore for the praise of God, it is the persuasive touch of Thy Sovereign Hand that evokes it, when on the ten-stringed psaltery Thou singest the glory of the Father. Sing as Thou singest, O Lord; play Thy sweet music with the swift and changeful modulations of a manifold thanks giving. Strike those nine tuneful heavenly strings, which never yet sounded harsh or sad. And touch that tenth, of lowest note, whose upper part strained and set in tune to Thee sounds joyfully; whilst its lower part, bound as yet awhile to the earth, knows only how to yield dull sounds of sadness and untunefulness.
[§ 62. The desires of the soul aspiring to God.] When, O First-begotten of God, I muse with intensest thought upon all Thy wonderful works, I tremble with amazement; for Thou dost shine forth all-glorious in every way in all of them. And yet, great though they be, and beautiful and very good, 171they show as emptiness and nothing compared with Thee. Earth and sky and all their bravery subsist by Thee their Creator and Governor, and utter forth Thy power and fulness, Thy wisdom and beauty, Thy goodness and love; and as light excels darkness, so Thou and Thou alone transcendest all of them. And Thou, my God, awaitest me in heaven, the Treasure and the Reward of Thy servant; Giver at once and Gift, Saviour and Salvation. The expected of my soul, ‘what besides Thee has it desired upon earth?’ (Ps. lxxiii. 25.)
Why then should I leave heaven for an atom? What is it in all the earth that I have deemed a greater good than Thee, or -a dearer love than Thee, that I should steal my heart from Thee and desire anything in all the universe outside of Thee? Why in all my life have I ever loved any thing or desired anything but Thee, Jesus my God? Why, Jesus, have I delayed, why have I ever for a moment stopped entertaining Thee in my heart, embracing Thee with my whole soul, and delighting all the inward recesses of my being with Thy sweetness? When I was not with Thee, where was I? When my desires rested not on Thee only, whither, whither did they fly?
God of my life, how vainly have my days 172been spent, how unprofitably have they slipped by! days which Thou gavest me that I might do Thy will in them, and I have not done it. How long the years, how many the hours that I have squandered, living but bringing forth no fruit in Thy sight! And how then shall I stand? How shall I dare to lift my eyes and look in Thy Face at that great reckoning, if Thou shalt bid me give an account of all my sins or of all my opportunities, and shalt demand the issues of all! O let it not be so, most patient Father; nay, let it not be so, but rather let my wasted opportunities—alas, how many!—be buried in forgetfulness. And if, by Thy help, I have husbanded some few of them—their number is small enough, I know—let these be remembered to eternity; and, Father of all love, let at least this my residue of time be fruitful and hallowed by Thy grace, that it may find a place in the days of eternity and be reckoned in my favour in Thy sight.
Now, then, from this moment do you, all my desires, bestir yourselves and fly to your Lord Jesus: fly away; why linger ye? Speed ye to your goal, seek whom ye seek. ‘You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified’ (St. Mark xvi. 6). 173He has gone up into heaven; ‘He is not here’ (ib.). He is not where He was. He is not where His sacred Head had not where to rest; He is not where He walked in the midst of trouble, despised and put to scorn; He is not where He stood before Pilate to be judged; He is not where He stood derided and mocked in Herod’s presence; He is not where He hung between malefactors, spit upon, smitten, wounded, drenched with blood; He is not where He lay, shut in by the stone, and watched by the gentile guards. Where then, O where, is the Lord’s Beloved? He rests in confidence, and no plague comes nigh His tabernacle. Above the height of heaven, above all the excellence of the angels, He is ascended and gone up in His own great might, and sits on the Throne of singular glory at the Right-hand of the Father, and reigns with Him, coëternal, consubstantial, clothed with the Divine Light, crowned with glory and honour as befits the Only-begotten, in undisturbed serenity, and joy, and uttermost almightiness; Lord in heaven, and Lord in earth. There all the angels of God adore Him, and the one vast throng of the citizens of the heavenly Sion. In Him, their sole centre, all hearts rejoice together, and the eyes of all the good feast on His Face 174whom all desire; in Him meet all the desires of all the saints, and the whole heavenly city, every way glorious in His Presence, sing their jubilee, their applause, and their magnificat to Him.
[§ 63. The Saints in heaven.] ‘Rejoice, and praise, O thou habitation of Sion; for great is He that is in the midst of thee, the Holy One of Israel’ (Is. xii. 6).
Rejoice, ye glorious Patriarchs in your royal Offspring, for all your expectations are fulfilled in Him and He is highly exalted, and in Him, your Seed, all nations shall be blessed, as the Divine word promised you.
Rejoice, ye Prophets, heralds of truth, in Jesus the great Prophet; for ye now see wonderfully and gloriously fulfilled all that you foretold of Him in the Holy Ghost, and are found faithful by Him in all your words.
And you, illustrious Princes of the sky, you blessed Apostles, rejoice in your Master the Lord Jesus, and again I say, rejoice in a familiar joy along with Christ; for, He whom ye once saw in hunger, and thirst, and weariness, and the like infirmities of the flesh, rejected by all, and reckoned with the wicked; see, how victoriously He conquers, 175see how royally He reigns, see how all things lie beneath His Feet, see how gloriously He shines in the light of His own dominion and the splendour of His jubilee; and how He has you for partners of His unspeakable glory, who of old continued with Him in His temptations, and were partakers of His griefs. Now you adore those dear Knees of His, which were bent to the earth before you, as you sat at the most holy Supper. Now you adore those sacred Hands, with which the King of kings deigned to wash off the dust from your feet, wiping them with a towel.
Rejoice, ye victorious Martyrs, in Jesus the Prince of your host; for now ye possess Him for whom you gave up your lives to death; you have the reward of your struggle now, you have Jesus Himself the Son of God now.
Rejoice, ye venerable Confessors and Doctors, rejoice in Jesus the Master Teacher of the truth; because whom once you confessed before men by sacred doctrines and holy lives, He now confesses you before His Father and His holy angels.
Rejoice, ye Virgins, denizens of paradise and like the angels; for, He whom you loved and sought and longed for, for love of Him disdaining earthly bridegrooms and all the world’s bravery—176now you behold Him, the Son of the great King, now you possess Him, now you rest in His chaste caresses, and no treachery of the enemy can ever tear Him from you.
[§ 64. The joys of Mary, Queen of Heaven, and Mother of God.] But, amongst all the dwellers in heaven, be thine, O Mary, the richest and the fullest joy; thine, Virgin among virgins supereminent, Rose of celestial sweetness, bright Star above the brightest of all the primeval lights of Divine illumination. Rejoice with supreme and singular joy above all others; for the very Child whom thou didst bring to a human birth and didst nurse at thy breasts, that Child thou adorest, true and living God, together with angels and all the whole company of the citizens of heaven. Rejoice, O happy Mother, for Whom thou sawest hanging on the wood of the cross, thou now seest reigning in heaven with great glory 3 thou seest all the grandeurs of heaven, of earth, of hell, bowed down before His royal state, and all the might of His enemies crushed in the dust. All joy, all joy of joys is thine, thou plenitude of holiness, thou blessed Jerusalem, our Mother, who art above. Keep joyful holiday, sweet Mother, joyful and unending in 177the peaceful vision of thy Jesus, the Author of thy immunity from sin.
[§ 65. The loving aspirations of the soul to Jesus.] And thou now, my soul, lift up thyself again with all thy best endeavours, and join the thousands of saints who are rejoicing in Jesus their Lord. Fly thither in the chariot of faith and hope, and by the fire of love take there thy dwelling ‘where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God’ (Col. iii. 1). Strain thine eye, and see thou in the light of His countenance. Linger about the marks of His blessed Scars, and kiss them one by one with thankful devotion; Scars whence gushed those rivers of the precious Blood with which the only-begotten Son of God paid for thy salvation, and for thy sanctification to eternal life. O Jesus, he who loves Thee not, let him be anathema; whoso loves Thee not, let him be filled with bitterness. Thy love, O Lord, is chaste and admits of no impurity; the savour of Thy love is pure, and draws aside no soul from rectitude; Thy love is sweet, and no bitterness is in it, for it sweetens the world’s bitters, and turns to bitterness its sweets. It is not cramped by adversities, and no oppression overburdens it; it sinks not under want, 178and is embittered by no grief; it is even and undisturbed in bodily labours, careless of threats, incorruptible in the midst of blandishments; in tortures it remains invincible, and it lives for ever more in death. As the miser gloats over his hoard, and the mother delights in the love of her only child, even so, sweet Jesus, the soul that loves Thee sips joy and gladness from the treasures of Thy dear love. The sweetness of honey, the softness of milk, wine with its freshening taste, and all delight some things—none, none of them so please the palate of those who taste them as Thy love charms the souls of them that love Thee.
O sweet Jesus, living and all-desirable Bread; sweet Fruit of the vine; Oil of mingled rarities;
gentle Lamb; strong Lion; lovely Leopard;66 [Formosa Panthera. The following passage from Hugh of St. Victor,
De Bestiis et Aliis Rebus, lib. ii. cap. xxiii.,
may interest the reader; it is entitled De Pantheræ Natura. ‘There is an animal called
panthera, of various colour, but exceeding
beautiful and of great gentleness. It is said to be the enemy of none but the
dragon. When it has eaten and satisfied itself with all sorts of prey, it
betakes itself to its lair, and lays it down and sleeps for three days. And then
rising from sleep, it forthwith raises a great cry on high, and sends forth at
the same time an odour of exceeding sweetness, so sweet an odour as to surpass
all pigments and all aromatic drugs. When, then, they hear its voice, all beasts
from far and near gather together and follow its exceeding sweetness. The
dragon, however, and only the dragon, on hearing its voice hides terror-stricken
in its earthy caves; and there, unable to bear the strength of its odour, coils
itself together, and lies dull and stupid, motionless and spiritless, as though
it were dead. But all other animals follow the leopard whithersoever it goes.’
The passage is too long to quote in full; let it suffice, therefore, to add that Hugh of St. Victor draws instruction (1) from the name of the panthera, quasi ‘omnis fera,’ (2) from its variegated skin, (3) from its beauty, (4) from its gentleness, and that he quotes Pliny and St. Isidore; the latter of whom (Etym. lib. xii. cap. viii.) says, ‘Panther dictus, sive quod omnium animalium amicus sit, excepto dracone; sive quia et sui generis societate gaudet, et ad eandem similitudinem quicquid accipit reddit. . . . Bestia minutis orbiculis superpicta, ita ut oculatis ex fulvo circulis nigrâ vel alba distinguatur varietate.’
Pliny’s testimony is as follows: ‘Ferunt odore earum mire solicitari quadrupedes cunctas, sed capitis torvitate terreri. Quamobrem occultato eo reliqua dulcedine invitatas corripiunt’ (H. N. lib. viii. cap. xxiii.).
And Ælian gives a like testimony, but at too great length to be quoted in this place. The reference is De Naturâ Animalium, lib. v. cap. xl.] 179guileless Dove; swift Eagle; Star of the morning; Sun of eternity; Angel of peace; fontal Light of the sempiternal lights; let my every sense conspire to praise Thee, and love Thee, delight in Thee, and admire Thee; Thee, the God of my heart and my portion, Christ Jesus. Let my heart die to its will, and my flesh to its desires; do Thou live in me, and let the live coal of Thy love glow in the midst of my soul, and break forth into a consuming fire; let Thy grace foster and nourish it in me, 180that it burn continually on my heart’s altar; let it glow in my inmost marrow, and rage in all the recesses of my soul; and in the perfect day let it be found perfected in Thee. In the day when Thou shalt see me stripped of this clothing of mortality, which I now carry about with me, let Thy Love enfold me, and be for a garment of beauty to my soul; that it be found not naked, but clothed upon, and have wherewithal to hide its infirmities from thine Eye. And that strange, that other fire, the fire that shall burn Thine adversaries; let the fervour of Thy love keep it far from me, and raise my soul to Thee, her Creator, and plunge her deep in the ocean of Thy Light Divine. Jesus, my Lord, let all who love Thee be filled with Thy benedictions; and coming home to Thee let their names be written in heaven, that they may have peace ‘under the covert of Thy wings’ (Ps. lxii. 8). To Thee therefore, only-begotten of God, be with the Eternal Father, and the Holy Ghost, unceasing praise, inviolable beauty, and Kingdom never to be moved, enduring for ever and for evermore. Amen.
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